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Dining

Quilting in the Desert – After Hours

A lot of what happens at a quilt event like Quilting in the Desert, happens after class has ended.  At this event, it began to get exciting before I even arrived. I had been following the exploits of former student, Gale Wrigley as she drove west, leaving her home in Florida for four months of travel.  She ran into road blocks in Texas that slooooowed her down, and for a while she worried that she might not ever move beyond those  expansive borders.  So, I commented a time or two and we began a friendly repartee about her travels.  However, not for a minute did it occur to me that Gale was en route to Scottsdale to take my class!  What a treat!

The Two Gails - Gale Wrigley and Gail Garber

The Two Gals – Gale Wrigley and Gail Garber

It was just like the reunion of two longtime friends, a natural and comfortable fit!  So, we hung out together, walking across the street for lunch with her friend, Dolores Roseveare.  They had reserved a suite with a full kitchen.  And, they invited me to dinner along with fellow teacher, Louise Smith.

Cooking in the Kitchen

Cooking in the Kitchen

I showed up at the appointed time to find Dolores and Gale in the midst of dinner preparations, with wine already set out – both red and white, which we drank in plastic hotel room cups.

Dining a la Wrigley

Dining a la Wrigley

A lovely Greek feast with couscous, feta, olives and veggies, along with a tasty salad of beets and greens hit the spot.  But the best part was the companionship as we lounged on their tiny patio renewing our friendship and getting to know Dolores and Louisa.   The next afternoon we headed off to the Desert Botanical Garden to view the Chihuly exhibit, but there was much to see at the gardens in addition to the glass exhibit.

Perfect Saguaro

Perfect Saguaro

I’ve always been intrigued by the massive saguaro cacti which grow only in the Sonoran desert.  They grow slowly and must reach ~50 years of age before they even begin to sprout arm buds.  A saturated saguaro can hold up to 200 gallons of water!  But, what I didn’t know was that

Saguaro Skeleton

Saguaro Skeleton

when the cactus dies, it leaves behind a sturdy wooden skeleton, much like the trunk of a tree.  My first exposure to this aspect happened when I checking in at the Cottonwoods Resort . . .

Saguaro Art

Saguaro Art

where a fully varnished saguaro skeleton graced the lobby of the hotel. It was for sale too, for ~$4500.  However, as much fun as it was to see this masterpiece, I was not even tempted — it was taller than the ceilings in my modest home.

I hope to be able to return to Phoenix sometime soon so I can take my time and take in the full majesty of the Desert Botanical Gardens a celebration of all things Sonoran, including

Spiral Cactus

Spiral Cactus

and

Round Button Cactus

Round Button Cactus

In fact, I’ve never seen such an amazing display of the various cacti!  But my favorite remains, the giant saguaro.

Saguaro in Desert Garden

Saguaro in Desert Garden

Bye Phoenix.  Bye Gale.  ‘Til next time!

 

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Out in the Styx

We pulled into the driveway of Out in the Styx with enough time to unpack for the night and relax with our host, Lance, over a glass of wine.

Maungatautari in the Fog

Maungatautari in the Fog

The clouds were hanging low over the mountain, threatening rain.  It also was getting dark so our visit to the mountain would have to wait until morning.  Lance regaled us with all the goings on over at Maunga, now called Sanctuary Mountain.  There was a new visitor center, new birds, and new trails.

Out in the Styx Cafe

Out in the Styx Cafe

While we remembered old times with Lance, and learned about more recent events, Mary was hard at work in the kitchen, preparing our dinner.  It was . . .

Out in the Styx Menu

Out in the Styx Menu

a delicious repast!

Next time you are anywhere near the Waikato countryside, stop in!  The food is impressive, the company entertaining, and the accommodations, right at the foot of Maungatautari Mountain very comfortable.  Be sure to call for reservations first!

Toes in the water

Toes in the Water

You will be glad you did!

 

 

 

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Ciao Taupo! Hello Out in the Styx!

Of course, my other favorite pastime is exploring back country byways.  Marion and I headed north in the general direction of Cambridge.

Off to the Wilds

Off to the Wilds

Along the way, Marion asked if I had ever walked on a swing bridge.  Upon my negative answer, she quickly turned the car in the direction of the Arapuni Swing Bridge.

Arapuni Swing Bridge

Arapuni Swing Bridge

The Arapuni Suspension Bridge is located just downstream from the Arapuni Power Station on the Waikato River in the South Waikato District of New Zealand. The 152-metre (499 ft) suspension bridge in the bush-lined gorge was built in the mid-1920s to allow workers from the village of Arapuni to access the power station construction site.

Arapuni Suspension Bridge

Arapuni Suspension Bridge

It’s long way down to the bottom of the gorge!  And, with every step, I could feel the bridge swaying. So, we did what any self-respecting tourist would do . . .

Marion poses on the swing bridge

Marion poses on the swing bridge

We took photographs!  First of each other on the bridge, and then . . .

View from Above

View from Above

and then, looking down at the giant silver ferns below!  It was impressive!  So impressive, that we stopped for tea right afterwards at the Rhubarb Cafe, a terrific local hangout! Soon we would be on the road again, heading for our stop for the night, Out in the Styx at the foot of Maungatautari Mountain, that incredible ecological preserve.

 

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Fine Dining – Paducah Style

Caribbean Style

Caribbean Style

Better late than never – ‘Tis my motto! I got sidetracked these last two weeks and am WAY behind on blogposts.  Nevertheless, I wanted to be sure to mention one terrific restaurant, Flamingo Row, where we girls dined on our last night in Paducah.   A couple of blocks south of the main drag, Hinkleville Road, it is definitely worth the effort!  In this small midwestern town, Flamingo Row embodies all things Caribbean, from the menu to the drinks!

Cynthia enjoys a fruity concoction

Cynthia enjoys a fruity concoction

Cynthia said it was delicious.   But, not being of the sort to partake of these kinds of sweetened drinks, I passed and opted for a glass of wine. – a dry white to pair with my dinner of shrimp, grits and green beans, a.k.a. “Haricot Verts”.  The first time I saw these on a menu, I had NO idea what the heck they were.  Turns out that they are French green beans, slimmer and supposedly better tasting!  Now, lest you think this sounds like a not-so-great entree, just take a look below!

Shrimp, Grits, and Haricot Verts

Shrimp, Grits, and Haricot Verts

The shrimp were grilled to perfection, the grits full of chile and cheese (YUM!) and the verts, crispy and crunchy!  Try it next time you are in Paducah!  You will love this place.

Girls at Flamingo Row:  (l-r)Michele, Yours Truly, Cynthia, and Mary

Girls at Flamingo Row: (l-r)Michele, Yours Truly, Cynthia, and Mary

Oh, what fun we had!  We were sad to say good-bye to Paducah and look forward to our next trip there.  On our way out of town, we got one last image of the magnificent dogwood flowers.

Dogwood Flowers

Dogwood Flowers

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Girlfriends’ Weekend in Paducah – Part One

Last weekend, three of my good quilting girlfriends and I set off to Paducah.   It all happened when two of my quilts were accepted into the National Quilt Museum in early March and I learned they would be hanging in the main gallery.  Michele immediately announced, “I want to go!”   Mary and Cynthia also thought it would be fun as neither of them had ever before been to Paducah and the Museum!  So, we set about planning a girlfriends’ weekend.  It was most economical to fly to St. Louis, so that became our first stop!

Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch

Our first stop after leaving the airport that afternoon, was the great park down along the Mississippi River.  None of the other girls had seen the impressive Gateway Arch that stands as the iconic monument symbolizing the westward expansion of the United States.  This architectural wonder that rises 630 ft. in the air commemorates the great journey of Lewis and Clark, begun 200 years ago.

Looking up at Gateway Arch

Interestingly, Cynthia just happens to be an architect, so we looked at the Arch and all of the surrounding buildings with new clarity and understanding!  It’s amazing what a ‘personal-pocket-architect-guide’ can do to increase one’s appreciation for structure and composition.  We had intended to stay downtown that first night and seek out the best restaurants.  So . . .

Girls at Bogarts

Girls at Bogarts Barbecue, the best in St. Louis! ( L-R, Mary Chappelle, Michele Hymel, Cynthia Figueroa-McInteer)

St. Louis is best known for its barbecue!  And, according to Trip Advisor, the Best of the Best in the downtown area is Bogarts Smokehouse !  In a little hole in the wall building just south of downtown, they only cook a certain amount each day and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  They stay open until they run out of food each night, which could be anywhere between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.  We arrived at 6:00 p.m.

Ribs from Bogarts

I inquired about our best meal choice and they said RIBS!   So a half slab of ribs it was for most of us.  Melt-in-your-mouth juiciness and falling apart moist, they were simply delicious!
By the way, we got the final order of ribs for that night!

Stay Tuned for Chapter Two – On to Paducah!

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A Few Days in Connecticut – Chapter Two

A Double Rainbow

Moving on down toward the southwestern corner of Connecticut, my day-hostess Gayle Brown, of Connecticut Piecemakers, took the time to show me some of the unique architecture of the area! Although it was a rainy afternoon, the highlight was this incredible double rainbow.

Chicken Florentine

They have some amazing Italian restaurants in this area.  Gayle, her husband Kent, and I dined at Mancuso’s Restaurant and Bar in Fairfield, my second stop on this trip.  It’s going to be hard to control my weight on this trip – for sure!  Yumm!

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